Monday, July 25, 2011

The End of Everything / by Megan Abbott

There has never been a time that 13-year-olds Lizzie Hood and Evie Verver weren't best friends. Nextdoor neighbors, in the same class at school and always in the same clubs and sports teams, they've been inseparable their entire lives. So when Evie suddenly disappears one day without a trace, it goes without saying that Lizzie is more than a little devastated. No one can think of a reason why anyone would want to kidnap or harm Evie. But is there? Evie's disappearance has coincided with another disappearance, that of Mr. Harold Shaw, a neighbor and parent from up the street. Days then weeks pass by and it becomes obvious that this is more than just a coincidence. Lizzie too starts to put the missing pieces together of her own puzzle together, recalling subtle hints and vague clues to how such a thing could have culminated. As the mystery continues without much evidence, it provides Lizzie with an odd and very curious opportunity to reflect on just how the bond of friendship can promote a trust which conceals hidden secrets.

Abbott, author of the Edgar nominated Bury Me Deep about a peculiar depression-era crime, takes an odd angle here with a shocking but not-all-that-uncommon story told in first person by the victim's best friend. It works well enough although some part linger a little too long on less important material and not enough attention is given to other, seemingly more pertinent aspects of the story--why Lizzie's own father left for one and accounting for Evie's real relationship with her older sister Dusty. Sometimes Lizzie's little revelations and discoveries aren't as authentic as they come across--possibly what Abbott intended--and at times there's a little too much melodrama driving the narrative. Attempting with the semi-reliable narration by the young protagonist to reveal a child 'growing up' through a crisis is a solid concept and the author displays her keen insight and intuition. Yet it's hard to dismiss the fact that most of Lizzie's personal growth comes not from her own inner voice and self-analysis but from interpersonal encounters with other characters, namely Dusty and Mr. Shaw's only son Pete, storylines which may be a bit too marginalized. (FIC ABBOTT)

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